When Anthony Ray Hinton walked out of jail after 30 years on Alabama’s death row, the world was a different place. The Internet, cell phones, and new technology required a whole new way of living and thinking that 30 years of solitary confinement and isolation did not permit. EJI continued to help Mr. Hinton meet these challenges and obtain medical care, new life skills, and the support he needed. This type of comprehensive assistance is critical in the transition home from prison, and EJI’s specialized re-entry program has facilitated re-entry for dozens of people like Mr. Hinton.
The need for services and assistance to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people has increased dramatically as America’s prison population has grown to record levels. “Tough on crime” policies have made productive re-entry into society exceptionally difficult by imposing increasingly numerous and onerous restrictions on things like applying for a driver’s license, voting, and receiving aid for food, housing, and education.
EJI has obtained release for dozens of people who were illegally convicted or unfairly sentenced, including Beniah Dandridge (pictured above with his EJI lawyers), who was released after 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Recent victories in the United States Supreme Court have led to parole for an increasing number of people who were sentenced to die in prison for convictions they received as children, sometimes as young as 13 years old.
Robert Saltzman (left) was released from Louisiana’s Angola Prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment without parole when he was a teenager. To help newly released clients meet these challenges, EJI’s re-entry program provides employment, daily supervision, counseling with licensed mental health professionals, and educational programming.
EJI’s Post-Release Education and Preparation program is specifically designed to provide critical support to individuals re-entering the community following decades of incarceration, often having been sentenced and imprisoned as children. In addition to housing, clothing, medical services, and other more traditional forms of support, EJI’s re-entry program also provides financial support for college and other educational pursuits. We have helped to send clients to culinary school, driver’s training, community college, and four-year universities.
When released, EJI’s clients are immediately confronted with the difficulties of obtaining necessities like a state-issued identification card and a physical exam. Without documents, insurance, or financial resources, many newly released people find these needs impossible to meet on their own. PREP helps people like Mr. Hinton to navigate these daunting obstacles in their first days of freedom, and provides customized life skills and technology training in the weeks and months that follow.
Mr. Hinton is one of scores of people that EJI’s program has served to date. Another is Ronald Elston (left); after EJI won his release last year, we helped him travel to reunite with his mother after 33 years in prison. By providing wrap-around support, care, and education, PREP prepares graduates to live independent and productive lives. It has been cited by officials as a model program for facilitating release and successful transition from prison for dozens of formerly incarcerated people.